A touching tribute written by Joseph King ’91, a Massachusetts State Police lieutenant, about his fallen K-9 partner Kallie has gone viral. Posted on the Massachusetts State Police Facebook page, King’s tribute has been shared by nearly 18,000 people and counting and has over 10,000 comments and 56,000+ “likes.” King worked with Kallie, a nine-year German Shepherd who was recently diagnosed with cancer, for seven years after completing Patrol School together. Below is King's tribute to Kallie.
On this past Thursday, May 29, 2014, I had to make the awful decision to put down my partner, K-9 Kallie. It was very sudden and unexpected. The day before, at the end of our work day, I noticed that she was uncharacteristically lethargic; she was having trouble walking, and having trouble breathing. Just a couple of hours prior to that, she was working and seemed to be fine. I rushed her down to the New England Animal Medical Center to be examined, and she was ultimately diagnosed with “hemangiosarcoma,” a type of cancer that I have since learned is very aggressive, very metastatic, and particularly common among German Shepherd dogs. The doctors found two tumors inside of her, one attached to her spleen and one near her heart. The tumors were causing massive internal bleeding, which was causing the lethargy, and the walking and breathing difficulties. They drained the blood that had collected around her heart and that relieved the immediate dangers, but that was only a temporary solution to a very large and serious problem.
On Thursday morning, after a second doctor had reviewed Kallie’s case, the opinion was the same: she had cancer, and it was bad. Surgery and chemotherapy were options, but even the most optimistic scenarios only gave her an additional six months to live, and her quality of life during that time would have been very poor. I didn’t think I could bear to see her labor through pain and discomfort every day for six months, only to die at the end anyway. I decided it was best to just let her go, peacefully and painlessly.
After the decision was made, I sat down on the floor next to Kallie while the doctor administered the medicine. Kallie laid down, put her head on my lap, and went to sleep, forever.
Kallie was a good dog, a working police dog for the Massachusetts State Police K-9 Unit, and she worked hard for the Commonwealth for over seven years. She had a very successful career, and I think she deserves some public recognition for a job well done.
Kallie and I went through Patrol School together during the spring of 2007. We certified as a Patrol Dog Team on June 14, 2007, and we certified as a Narcotics Detection Team on October 25, 2007.
For the next seven years, Kallie and I worked together every day, patrolling eastern Massachusetts and responding to any community that requested K-9 assistance, from Salisbury to Cape Cod. Kallie tracked and located missing and lost hikers in the woods, fleeing felons, domestic abusers, B&E suspects, shoplifters, and various other types of missing and/or wanted people. She found people hiding in thick bushes, in high weeds, in sheds, in swamps, up on roofs, in crowded bus stations, under overturned kiddie pools in back yards, passed out in drainage ditches along the side of the highway. I went to K-9 calls very confident that if someone was there to be found, Kallie would find him (or her, in some cases).
Kallie was not very large for a police dog; she was a female and weighed a little more than 60 pounds. Some of our big male dogs can weigh up to 90 or even over 100 pounds. But what Kallie lacked in size, she made up for in determination: she was 100% committed to the task, every single time. When she was on a hot track, she pulled like a freight train. If I wasn’t paying attention, she could yank me right off my feet, which she did more than a few times. I’ve taken some spectacular falls while trying to keep up with her on tracks through the woods and across snow and ice. I vividly recall one track during a bitterly cold January night when I was literally snow skiing at the end of the leash while she hauled me across a frozen baseball field. Again: she was a sixty pound female; I am a 200+ pound male, plus the additional weight of all my police gear. This was one highly motivated dog.
Her real talent was narcotics detection. During her 7 year career, Kallie sniffed out a total of over 30 kilos of cocaine, 6 kilos of heroin, 369 pounds of marijuana, 123 grams of methamphetamine, and her narcotics alerts contributed to the seizure of approximately $1.6 million dollars in illegal drug money. She located hidden compartments containing illegal drugs built into motor vehicles, built into bookshelves in houses, and in furniture; she located drugs hidden up in ceilings, in the engine blocks and the bumpers of cars, in the headrests of car seats, in storage containers, in suitcases, in packages being shipped through the U.S. Mail, in the pockets of clothes hanging in closets. Words cannot describe the feeling of pride and satisfaction in knowing that your dog located illegal narcotics that most likely would have been missed by humans. A bad guy drug dealer might have been allowed to walk away free, but your dog found his drugs and now he’s under arrest. No better feeling in the world.
Kallie was very popular at our K-9 demonstrations. Because she was very social and had such a nice, calm disposition, she was always chosen to be the “meet-and-greet” dog, the dog that all the children could pet and have their pictures taken with at the end of the demo. I don’t think Kallie particularly enjoyed this duty, having a crowd of small children jostling around trying to pet her, but rather she merely tolerated it because she knew I wanted her to. Nevertheless, she always sat still long enough for every child to have a turn to pet her, and have a picture taken. I think there must be pictures of Kallie in hundreds of family photo albums all over the Commonwealth.
She was calm and quiet at home, great with my family. My neighbors often commented on what a nice dog she was because they never heard her bark; they often forgot that we even had a dog. But when she got in the cruiser with me to go to work it was a whole different story: she was all police dog, eyes open, ears up, and she barked at everybody. I had to keep telling her to shut up so I could hear the radio transmissions. Whenever we were driving to a call with the lights and siren on, she would go bonkers in the back; she very quickly learned that the lights and siren meant that we were going somewhere to do something, and she loved to work. I never had to build up her motivation. Sometimes the challenge was getting her to calm down a little bit.
In June of 2013, I was promoted to Lieutenant and I was lucky enough to stay in the K-9 Unit as the Unit Commander. I was also a little bit unlucky, in the sense that my responsibilities transitioned from being primarily a handler to more of an administrator. This meant I had to spend more time in an office sifting through paperwork, which cut into the time that I could spend with Kallie out answering K-9 calls. I kept her as busy as I could, answering as many calls as possible and always ensuring that she got alot work done at various K-9 training days during the week.
Our last work day together, Wednesday May 28, was a good day. At 10:00 am we answered a patrol call in Walpole. At 1:30 pm, we answered another patrol call in North Attleboro. At both calls, Kallie was her usual self: motivated, enthusiastic, and happy. She came out of the cruiser like a cannon ball, put her nose to the ground and went to work. It was only after all the work was finished and we were done for the day that I noticed that something was terribly wrong with her.
By 10:00 am the next morning, she was gone.
I’d like to thank Janet, Diane and everyone at the New England Animal Medical Center in West Bridgewater for their kindness and compassion during Kallie’s final hours. They allowed me to take my wife and young boys in after hours on Wednesday night to visit Kallie one last time, to say good-bye. For that I will always be grateful.
Kallie was 9 years old when she died. She was getting ready to retire from police work. I had been looking forward to her retirement, so she could have some time to spend as “just a dog,” to be in the house with my family. I was disappointed that she never got to experience that. However, many of my colleagues in the K-9 Unit have suggested to me that Kallie may not have enjoyed that kind of sedentary lifestyle; she was a working dog, working was what made her happy, she loved it, she lived for it. And truly: she worked, and she was happy, right to the very end.
I think my colleagues are right.
Good girl, Kallie. Free time.
by Lt. Joseph King ‘91
Massachusetts State Police K-9 Unit